New Research on the Attributes of Complex Buying Decisions

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Demand Gen Report recently published the findings of its eighth annual B2B Buyers Survey. The 2019 survey received responses from more than 250 B2B executives representing a variety of industry verticals. Fifty-four percent of the respondents said they predominantly made software/technology purchases. Another 19% said they primarily purchase IT hardware. So about three-fourths (73%) of the respondents were involved in purchasing some type of technology. Virtually all of the respondents were manager-level or above.

The 2019 research shows a continuation of trends that appeared in earlier editions of the buyers survey. For example, a majority of survey respondents have been reporting that the length of their buying cycle is increasing for at least the past four years, as the following table shows:










Demand Gen Report presented the survey panels with several statements describing various aspects of their purchasing process. The following table shows the percentages of respondents in the 2019 and 2018 surveys who said they strongly agreed with five of these statements:

The 2019 survey indicates that a growing number of buyers have become more willing to engage with vendor reps early in their buying process. For example:

  • 42% of the respondents said they spoke to and engaged with vendor reps in the first month of their buying process (up from 33% in the 2018 edition of the survey).
  • 33% said they accepted outreach from prospective vendors for calls and demos in the first month (up from 23% in 2018).
  • 25% said they asked for RFx’s, competitive bids, or pricing information in the first month (up from 20% in 2018).
Demand Gen Report also asked survey participants about several factors that distinguished winning vendors from others. The following table shows the percentages of respondents in the 2019 survey who rated six characteristics of winning vendors as very important:

The 2019 B2B Buyers Survey provides important insights regarding the attitudes and behaviors of business buyers, but it’s important to recognize that this research doesn’t really cover the entire spectrum of B2B buying. The first sentence of the survey report makes this clear when it says:  “Over the course of eight years, Demand Gen Report’s annual B2B Buyers Survey has spotlighted the ever-changing needs and expectations of the different stakeholders in complex purchasing decisions.” (Emphasis added)

The Demand Gen Report survey, like most of the published research about B2B demand generation, deals with “high consideration” purchases that feature large buying groups, complex decision-making processes, and long buying cycles. But high consideration purchases have never represented all B2B buying.
Many B2B purchases are fairly routine, where the buying decision is made quickly by a small group of people, or even a single individual. In a 2018 survey of 114 “industrial buyers” by Thomas, over half (56%) of the respondents said they make buying decisions in less than one month.
While not much recent data is available, it’s likely that more routine purchases account for a significant part of total B2B buying. In a landmark study of more than 3,000 B2B buyers conducted in 2009 by Enquiro, survey respondents estimated that 50% of their budget was spent on “Repeat” purchases – low-risk purchases that are made frequently and involve familiar products or services.
The reality is, most B2B companies derive revenue from multiple types of buying scenarios, and these scenarios will differ in significant ways. Understanding how these scenarios differ and what causes the differences is important because they call for different marketing and sales strategies. I’ll provide a framework for analyzing buying situations in a future post.



Top image courtesy of ITU Pictures via Flickr CC.

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